Food Allergy Research Project
Earlier this year Nanci Pomfrett carried out a study to investigate how online delivery services , such as Just Eat or Deliveroo, present allergen information and how improvements to this system would improve the food allergy consumer’s confidence when ordering food in this way.
Nanci ran two surveys, one aimed at the Food Allergic Consumer (FAC) and one aimed at Food Business Operators (FBO) that may use these services to reach their customers.
Part of the aims of the study were to explore whether FBO’s that use the 3rd party services felt that there are improvements that could be made to how the allergen information is presented. There were 137 responses to the survey, unfortunately only 1 of which came from the FBO side of the study which prevented the researcher to make any comment regarding food business operator experiences and opinions in relation to the presentation of allergen information online. There appeared to be a reluctance from the FBO when invited to take part in the study.
From the FAC responses the research was able to conclude some findings for example 88% of respondents felt that there was a difference between the allergen management of the online services compared to how they would be managed within the restaurant. The further details to this question had the themes of ‘lack of information’ ‘blanket disclaimers’ and ‘having to phone’.
98% of those that took the survey felt that the presentation and accessibility of allergen information on online food ordering services could be improved upon, with further details being added regarding ‘Use of Symbols’, ‘opportunity for communication’ and ‘interactive menus’ being suggested as ways for those improvements to be made.
91% of those that took part in the study felt that online ordering services, such as Just Eat, do have a responsibility to provide allergen information for meals with further details given that stated that as they are ‘part of the chain’ so with that comes the need to carry some of the responsibility and there is a ‘duty of care’ and having ‘responsibility to set standards’ within their business.
91% of those that took part in the survey also felt at a disadvantage to their non food allergic counterparts when it comes to using the 3rd party ordering sites. It taking ‘more time’ and having ‘less choice’ along with ‘blanket disclaimers’ and ‘social situations’ being listed as further details to their answer to that particular question. The phrase ‘inconvenience’ appeared frequently amongst the answers to this question particularly about the process of ordering via the online services.
With Natasha’s Law coming into force on the 1st October 2021 the requirements for these types of sites to do more for the Food Allergic customer may change over the coming months and more research is required in this area to get a clearer picture. There appears to be vast difference between how allergens are presented online to how they are presented in the restaurants.
The study also asked whether the FAC would consider paying more for their food if the were more confident in the allergen information provided by the 3rd party services, 67% of those that completed the survey answered that they would consider paying more.
For full details of Nanci’s study click here.